Sunday, 11 March 2012

Landscape in particular 2: Bolton Abbey estate

Field barns in Wharfedale, Yorkshire Dales

Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale is one of the most visited places in the Yorkshire Dales; on a summer weekend it can seem as if half the population of Leeds and Bradford have taken possession. 

I had visited many times during my childhood, with two sets of grand-parents living down the road, and have a family connection as my grandfather was born on a nearby farm (Deerstones - did our practically-minded forebears have any understanding of the poetry of their place naming?).

Through serendipity I took part in a field survey of historic barns on the Bolton Abbey estate as part of an English Heritage placement during my Masters in Landscape Archaeology.  

This included a blissful week or so spent travelling around the sprawling estate, which takes in most of the tenanted farms in the surrounding area, photographing the many and varied barns and generally observing and interpreting the historic landscape. A day spent poring over the maps and plans in the Estate's archive appealed to another side of my love of landscape.

The work provided a thought-provoking insight into the challenges and opportunities involved in managing historic buildings and landscapes. And made me question some of my assumptions and prejudices about the the roles of landowners, National Park authorities and others in this area.

It also provided another reminder that it doesn't take much to get off the beaten track in even the most popular 'honey pots'; an inquisitive nature, desire to wander and some understanding of the features that make up a landscape, are all that are really needed. 

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